March 2, 2008 – Norman Jeffrey “Jeff” Healy was one of the finest, most underrated, blues rock guitarists/vocalist of his generation. Due to cancer his eyes were surgically removed when he was one year old, which was probably a major reason for starting to play guitar at age 3 in a very unconventional way- flat on his lap. That way he could use 4 fingers plus his thumb to create amazing solos. Even though he broke into the public limelight as a result of being the “house band” in Patrick Swayze’s 1989 movie Roadhouse, it really was Stevie Ray Vaughn and fellow blues guitarist Albert Collins, who discovered Healey in a spontaneous Toronto Canada jam session.
Born in Toronto, Ontario on March 25, 1966, Healey was raised in the city’s west end. He began playing guitar when he was three. When he was 15, Jeff Healey formed the band Blue Direction, a four-piece which primarily played bar-band cover tunes and featured bassist Jeremy Littler, drummer Graydon Chapman, and a schoolmate, Rob Quail on second guitar. This band played various local clubs in Toronto, including the Colonial Tavern.
Using his massive vintage 78 rpm gramophone record collection, Healey began hosting a popular jazz and blues show on radio station CIUT-FM.
In that capacity, he was introduced to two local musicians, bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen, with whom he then formed a trio, The Jeff Healey Band. This band made their first public appearance at the Birds Nest, located upstairs at Chicago’s Diner on Queen Street West in Toronto. They made a deep impression and received a write-up in Toronto’s NOW magazine, and soon were playing almost nightly in local clubs, such as Grossman’s Tavern and the famed blues club Albert’s Hall (where he was discovered by guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins).
After being signed to Arista Records in 1988, the band released the album See the Light, featuring the hit single “Angel Eyes” and the song “Hideaway”, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. While the band was recording See the Light, they were also filming (and recording for the soundtrack of) the Patrick Swayze film Road House. Healey had numerous acting scenes in the movie with Swayze, as his band was the house cover band for the bar featured in the movie. In 1990, the band won the Juno Award for Canadian Entertainer of the Year. The albums Hell to Pay and Feel This gave Healey 10 charting singles in Canada between 1990 and 1994, including a cover of The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps which featured George Harrison and Jeff Lynne on backing vocals and acoustic guitar.
Around the turn of the century, Healy started embracing his first love, JAZZ and often exchanged guitar for trumpet, especially during live performances.
On March 2, 2008, Healey died of cancer in his home town of Toronto. He was 41 years old. His death came a month before the release of Mess of Blues, which was his first rock/blues album in eight years.
After years of efforts by fans, friends and family, Jeff Healey was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame on Saturday October 18th, 2014, as a recipient of the Cineplex Legends Award.